The slim Republican House majority is a tightrope for the new Speaker.

Kevin McCarthy and other House Republicans coming down the steps of the House for a press conference on their Commitment to America, 9/29/22. (Photo: Victoria Pickering)

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, right around this time, Elon Musk was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ruling over the House of Representatives with an iron fist.

In those days, everyone who was anyone was driving a Tesla — at least at the Los Angeles Times, apparently — and Elon Musk was one of the left’s favorite West Coast sons.

On the East Coast, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the one ruling the House of Representatives with an iron fist, attempting to manage the unmanageable, govern the ungovernable, and corral disparate and diametrically opposed lawmakers from deep blue cities and swing states.

It is sometimes said in professional medical circles that doctors make terrible patients. The same might be said of America’s elected leaders and governors: They don’t like being governed much and often make the process difficult.

Other types of House lawmakers can be even more unwieldy, and there are some in both major political parties and everywhere in between.

Some elected officials, like Nancy Pelosi, are inclined to view the House of Representatives as a long-term career choice and are likely to spend decades in their seat, if they can keep it.

Others elected to Congress only plan on spending a few terms in office before moving on — if that. Some members of Congress have grander plans; time served in the House is intended as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things — a Senate seat, gubernatorial bid, or a cabinet position. A higher political profile can mean better prospects in the private sector, too.

Still other Congressional lawmakers have very different plans for when they leave office; lobbying is a popular option. Increasingly, going into the media business is another oft-chosen option by those wishing to parlay a short Congressional career into better prospects down the road.

Getting there involves a good deal of work, however. There are book deals, talk shows, fundraisers; golf scrambles, nonprofit events, social media branding, and outreach efforts. Raising your political profile, like growing an Instagram following, takes effort.

Because the House of Representatives represents most of the political spectrum of these United States — with the additional complication of corporate financial interests, a media-obsessed culture, and a toxic social media scene riddled with click-bait and advertisements, anyone presuming to lead such a motley crew automatically has their work cut out for them.

Like Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema before them, 20 House Republicans recently discovered that a razor-thin majority affords their tiny minority outsize influence. Any would-be Republican Speaker of the House needs almost every Republican in Congress to vote for them and with them. Four Republican votes, either way, could have made or broken McCarthy’s bid for Speakership.

It is an excellent reminder that four Republican votes — and indeed four Democratic Party votes — are going to be enough to make or break any effort Republicans can manage to get onto the Congressional floor over the next two years.

Perhaps longer.

On one hand, a tiny minority of Republicans in Congress held up the agenda of 330 million Americans last week. On the other hand, this carefully and almost evenly divided House of Representatives — along with equally razor-thin margins in the Senate — are exactly what the American people voted for only two months ago.

In the end, after a very tense standoff, over two dozen votes, and numerous concessions made by McCarthy to appease Republican dissenters, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy managed to craft a win.

It might have been better for Kevin McCarthy, not to mention the Republican Party, had GOP lawmakers gotten their internecine disputes out of the way earlier and in private, as Nancy Pelosi might have done.

After all, it’s been two long months since the election. House Republicans knew they’d be called upon to elect a Speaker; they knew the date was fast approaching.

On the other hand, Speaker McCarthy’s election wasn’t a foregone conclusion, and maybe that’s a very good thing. Unlike his predecessor in the Speaker’s chair, McCarthy’s machinations — the concessions he made to secure enough votes to be elected speaker — happened right out in the open for all to see.

What’s wrong with that?

When we really stop and consider it, a little more transparency in government might not be such a bad thing, after all.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)